Many physicians are predicting that stem cells will have an effect on medicine comparable to that of the discovery of penicillin or medical lasers. Stem cells have far reaching uses from cardiology to neurology, and even aesthetics. Doctors have found that pluripotent stem cells live in fat. These stem cells can grow into any of the 200+ types of cells found in the human body, making fat stores an excellent source for effective stem cell harvesting.
The PureGraft system from Cytori is FDA approved and used in the US for processing fat to use in fat transfer procedures. PureGraft allows physicians to prepare the fat in 15 minutes, which saves time in surgery and allows for the processing of a greater volume of fat. Cytori has also developed the Celution system which is currently used only in Asia and Europe and differs from PureGraft as it is able to not only process the fat for fat transfer, but to enable extraction of stem cells.
San Diego cosmetic surgeon Dr. Steven Cohen explains the process, "You're harvesting fat with liposuction. You're putting it in a machine that has really about a 96 step process built into it and you're adding an agent that breaks down the fences around the cells called the matrix and then that machine by differential centrifugation (spinning) allows you to separate out layers within a column and one of those layers are stem cells - stem and regenerative cells - so those can be taken and those can be removed and can be used. In areas like radiation injury where there is no treatment whatsoever other than to maybe to a very complicated 10 hour operation to bring tissue from one area of the body to another, with these cells we're seeing reversal of those radiation injuries."
Fat transfer procedures are growing increasingly popular as patients are able to have fat removed and then replaced in their bodies where they want to see the fat go. Some of the most popular areas to have fat injected is in the face as a facial filler, and then in the breast or buttocks for greater volume. "From the cosmetic point of view, this may enable us to be doing breast augmentations, face lifts and actually regenerating facial tissue or breast tissue along the way, so there are some very exciting opportunities," says Dr. Cohen.
The PureGraft system from the same company does have FDA approval and is used by aesthetic physicians to prepare fat for re-injection. Dr. Cohen says he would guess that we'll see FDA approval for the Celution system in a few years. "I would guess with the FDA it could be as long as two years but one never knows - it could be longer, it could be shorter but in that area might be a fair guesstimate. I think the device is available in Europe and Asia now but I think in the US probably 2 years."